I am very pleased that Labor has announced that we will introduce real-time monitoring in pharmacies to reduce the number of people dying from prescription drug overdoses – a policy supported by both doctors and pharmacists.
There are about 600 deaths each year in Australia related to misuse of prescription opioid-based drugs. A recent study found that around 750,000 people in Australia are dependent on opioids.
Between 2007 and 2013 in both Australia and NSW, there was a 68 per cent increase in accidental opioid deaths.
A 2017 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that prescription drugs outpaced deaths from illicit drugs in Australia – with the majority of deaths attributed almost entirely to opioids such as oxycodone and other prescription medications at high risk of misuse such as benzodiazepines.
The software will link pharmacies and GP surgeries via a database to reduce patients “doctor or chemist-shopping” and abusing prescription medications at high risk of misuse. It will also alert patients who are unaware that they have slipped into misuse or addiction.
Labor Leader Luke Foley said this action follows a NSW Coroner’s report released last month which criticised a lack of State Government action on the matter.
The NSW Coroner was inquiring into the accidental prescription drug overdose death of young Sydney mother Alissa Campbell in 2015 and described her death as “preventable”.
Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame called on the NSW government to urgently introduce real-time prescription monitoring like Victoria, rather than wait for the Federal Government to act. She said that it was both “frustrating and depressing” that NSW did not have a standalone plan.
The Deputy Coroner recommended implementing a system that has the capacity to immediately identify a patient’s current prescriptions to clearly assist doctors and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense more safely; adding that this would have been “particularly useful in caring for complex patients like Alissa who accessed a number of doctors and pharmacies at any one time.”
The real-time monitoring system - $30 million over four years – will:
- Be patterned on Victoria’s “SafeScript” scheme which monitors the prescriptions of all Schedule 8 medicines (opioids, painkillers and stimulants). It also monitors tranquilisers, sleeping tablets, anti-psychotics and codeine;
- Better equip health professionals to be able to identify people at risk of prescription drug misuse; and
- Include additional training and support for health professionals and a public awareness campaign.
The NSW Labor initiative would complement the recent Council of Australian Governments agreement to progress the development on a nationally compatible system.
Labor’s real-time prescription monitoring plan will help prevent people from so-called ‘doctor or chemist shopping’ at multiple doctors and pharmacies.
The Victorian government is leading the way with Australia’s first large-scale real-time prescription monitoring system and NSW needs to catch up.
Last month the Deputy Coroner said NSW needed to implement real-time prescription monitoring as a matter of urgency to help prevent accidental overdose deaths like that of young Sydney mother Alissa Campbell in 2015.
We all know that good policy should be bipartisan. So, I urge the NSW government to introduce real-time prescription monitoring, if it doesn’t act on this Labor will, if elected in 2019.